An Exercise in Forgiveness

Feeling Down Down by the Seaside

Holding on to resentment can make for a lonely walk through life

Namaste friends

We hear a lot about the importance of forgiveness:  how healing it is to forgive, how our health, state of mind, and general happiness can depend on whether we are able to let go of resentments and forgive others and ourselves.  Studies have shown that remembering past hurts, results in significant spikes in blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension.  In the same studies when subjects were asked to imagine forgiving the people who had wronged them, they remained calm with no increase in blood pressure and so on.

In another, larger study, researchers confirmed that people who have forgiven someone in their past, report being in better health, having a happier disposition and fewer ‘negative’ thoughts about those people and their own past.  Clearly, forgiveness is good for you!

We all harbour resentments: towards parents for real or

So Much for Our Happy Holiday

Holding on to resentments & non forgiveness is poisonous to relationships and damages all concerned


imagined wrongs committed against us in childhood; towards past and present partners for betrayals or other wrongs—again real and imagined. We might even resent ‘the world’ for its unfairness.  We can hold on to these resentments for years. Often the people we resent have moved on, were never aware of a problem or they may have even died. All the while, we go on suffering the ill effects of clinging to hurts and resentments.

Try these short and simple exercises when you feel that you want to bring some forgiveness into your life.

Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Sit or lie down comfortably. Take a few deep breaths and relax. Let your mind slow down, but don’t try to stop thoughts that come. Once you feel relaxed and quiet, think of someone who you feel the need to forgive. This isn’t always easy:  we often like to hang on to our resentments, or the hurt was so great that forgiveness seems impossible. But remember, this is about you and your well-being.

Now, bring an image of that person into your mind. Once you see them clearly, say to them, ‘I forgive you. However you have hurt me, through thought, word, or deed I let go of all resentment towards you’. Now you can let that person go on her or his way, knowing that they have been touched by your forgiveness. When you’re ready, return to your day, refreshed and relieved.

Angels Alone in the CrowdOf course, it works both ways. All of us have committed wrongs against others—or there are others who believe they’ve  been wronged in some way by us. You can use the same exercise to ask them for forgiveness.  Once again, picture the person. Then say to them, ‘I ask your forgiveness. Forgive me for whatever pain I have caused you’. Then, and this is the important bit, allow yourself to be forgiven.

Because we are usually harder on ourselves, we often find that the hardest person to forgive is ourselves.  So, to start forgiving yourself, bring a picture of you into mind. Now, say to that picture of you, ‘I forgive you’. If any hard or unforgiving thoughts come to mind, gently turn them around. And be kind to yourself. Again, allow yourself to be forgiven.

This exercise is not a magic formula; it is merely the beginning of a process which, when followed up by acts of forgiveness (a subject for another day), will allow you to start to forgive others and yourself.



Old Questions, New Answers

A friend recently finished the first draft of a book which has taken a year of writing every day. Announcing the completion of the 90000-word first draft to his friends, he said, among other things, that the work was ‘…written by a man who cares nothing for his old status as a writer.’.

Reading his Facebook post got me thinking about a concept called Ahunkara. The concept, which originates from within Sanātana Dharma (the body of sacred wisdom now commonly referred to as Hinduism), basically refers to the idea of self-consciousness.  What is significant here is the word self and how it is not capitalised. In other words, it is not a consciousness of the Higher Self or the real Self; rather it is a consciousness of the bodily, material self, that inhabits and interacts with the physical world.

This lower (for want of a better word) self is the self we present to the world as ‘us’, as who we are. But it is more than this: Ahunkara refers to the way we define ourselves according to our place in the material world.


So, What do you do?

When we meet someone new, a common part of the opening pleasantries is the question,

‘So, what do you do?’ Now, when you’ve asked that question of a new acquittance, what was your experience? What has been the answer? Invariably I think it is safe to say, your new acquaintance has replied with something like,

‘Well, I am a … ‘. We most often introduce ourselves with a label: ‘I am a teacher’, or ‘I am a plumber/artist/carpenter/bus driver/nurse/’. You get the idea. We define ourselves to others as well as to ourselves by what we do in the world, usually according to how we earn money, or what we do as a career. We are, according to this labelling what we do in the world.

Of course, we do need to have a way to place ourselves in the world, and in relationship to others. As well, we need to offer clues to assist others in placing us within their world. But, why do we need to provide this identification by labelling ourselves? Why do we need to limit our own view of ourselves to ourselves as well as to others?

The answer, you would have guessed by now, is that we don’t. Like my friend, you can free yourself from the label. For him that label was for many years, ‘I am a writer’.  Now, to put it simply, you can, like he did, answer the ‘What do you do?’ question with a succinct statement such as ‘Well, among other things I write.’

Yes, it is true that labelling self and others does—at least at first—simplify communications and the building of relationship. I mean, let’s say your trade is plumbing. Surely it’s simpler to say, ‘I am a plumber’? Everyone knows what a plumber does, right?

But, is a plumber really what you are?  Don’t you just do plumbing as a job 9 to 5, five days a week (or something like that)? What do you do in the evenings? How do you spend your weekends? Perhaps you write poetry, or draw. Maybe you build model boats, or play the piano.


Monk on the Cora

What do I do? Well I follow my own path

And which is more important in your life, to your wellbeing, to your happiness? Sure, the plumbing pays the bills and feeds, houses, and clothes you, but what lifts your spirit?  Which of the things that you do makes you feel most alive?

Well, whether you have the label plumber, doctor, lawyer, bank teller, shopkeeper, or in fact any number of possible trades, professions, and ‘things we do for a living’, you will likely answer these questions with something like: ‘Well I need my job to pay the bills but I really love and even live for playing the piano/building model boats/writing my family history/the list goes on.’

These questions and this answer are about that other Self, the one with the capital S. The Self that is the real you, the Self that is in relationship with God, Spirit, Universal energy, whatever you call that spark that is life, and love, and joy. All that good stuff, you know?

So, next time someone says to you, ‘So, what do you do?’, what are you going to answer?

‘Well actually I’ve just started a scale model of the Titanic’, or

‘Good question. In fact, next week I have my first solo singing role with the choir I’ve been in for years’, or

‘Don’t ask. I’ve been stuck on Chapter 3 of my novel for weeks and it’s driving me nuts’, or

‘Well for the last few years I’ve been working on a new way to plumb kitchen sinks. I’ve found as I repair kitchen taps that they’re not as efficient as they might be’.

Anyway, you who are reading this, what do you do?

Paul Self Portrait with Prayer Flags

What’s Walking got to do with it?

In a Forest LightlySolvitur ambulando is a great expression, that in fact has nothing at all to do with the literal meaning of these two Latin words: It is solved by walking. The expression actually refers to how problems can be solved by experiment, by taking actions. That’s where the phrase comes from: Greek philosopher Diogenes the Cynic supposedly replied to Zeno’s paradox  on the unreality of motion by standing up and walking away. Kind of interesting when you think about it isn’t it? I mean a cynic only needs to walk away from the thing she or he is cynical about to solve the problem! I won’t get into trying to explain Zeno’s paradox on the unreality of motion; you should however check it out for yourself. All I will say here is that it is riveting reading that will most likely do your head in as it did mine.

(While you’re at it, have a read of another of his paradoxes. Achilles and the Hare, which is the root of the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. Achilles, a speedy runner for sure, raced a tortoise and (obviously) the tortoise won. Not only that, the paradox states that, given even a small head start, the tortoise will always win, and Achilles (the hare) can never win. Heady stuff.)

One Second at Hungry Hollow Beach

In more recent times the phrase has taken on a meaning more directly related to walking; it now really does mean that it (whatever it might be) is solved by walking. Henry David Thoreau mentions the phrase in his transcendent essay Walking. Read that and weep. And rejoice.

Then there was the flawed but brilliant nomad and writer Bruce Chatwin who uses the phrase in his book Songlines. Chatwin believed that, ‘walking constituted the sovereign remedy for every mental travail’. Then there are other writers who have used the phrase in their travel writing, including Paul Theroux who uses it many times in his book Tao of Travel.

All this background is all very fascinating, but it doesn’t answer the question: Does walking really solve it? The first thought that comes to mind is how long is a piece of string; I mean ‘it’ could be anything and of course there are many many things that we know (or perhaps think we know?) can’t be solved, much less by walking. Any of us could think of a multitude of problems, ills, worries, trauma, that walking would not and could not solve. In fact, I hear you saying, walking could actually make things a lot worse.

Ah but wait, isn’t this what the phrase originally meant? If you have a problem, take some action or actions. Obviously not everything can be ‘solved’ to our satisfaction, but maybe some things can. And maybe they can be solved by walking.

Feeling Down Down by the Seaside

This isn’t me (I don’t wear ties)

No need here to go into the science that’s been done on the benefits of walking; it’s enough to say it’s been found to help in relieving Depression, in losing weight, in aiding in recovery after illness or injury, and in helping one to live longer.

Take me for example. Three months ago, I had open heart surgery which was (still is) a trauma on a number of levels. It was a huge assault on my body and it has played havoc with my state of mind, as well as my emotional well-being (not that they were terrific before, but you know what I mean).

Right away, after the surgery they get you walking; just to the bathroom, or around the ward; anything to get you moving, to get the healing process started. Then after leaving hospital they say, walk as much as you can. Even just a few metres around the house is great. Then gradually increase the distance you walk. It wasn’t that long ago that once around the backyard was more than enough to wipe me out. Now, I seem to be able to walk a kilometre or more without too much trouble.

That’s the physical side of things; what of the mental and emotional stuff? Well first thing to say is that, once I get going, I really enjoy walking; there is a pleasure in it. Tokay I walked about a kilometre down a street I had never walked before. I came home feeling stimulated and ready to get on with my work. A part of which is writing. And, as you read, here I am!

I have been a reader of Bruce Chatwin’s work on nomadism and travel since my twenties. He walked and walked, then he would walk some more. He learned the phrase Solvitur ambulando  from legendary travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor who at 18 set out to walk the length of Europe from the Hook of Holland to what was then Constantinople, today’s Istanbul. I suspect he had to walk down a few unknown streets to make it all the way.

The very least we can discover by walking is the answer to the question we started with: Is it really solved by walking?

Walkers in the Wasteland

Find the meaning for your life

To the extent that a person is untrue to their own law of being, that person has failed to realise the meaning of their life. 

It’s a big question isn’t it, the old ‘what’s the meaning of life’ puzzler? And, sorry, but there is no answer to be found here today. In fact, many might say that there really is no meaning to life; life just is. Those people or some others might add that life is as full (or not) of meaning as one chooses to make it.

In any case, as none of us are likely to really ever know if there is or isn’t a meaning to life, then we may as well get on and fill our own lives with meaning. After all, we are here for a while, so we might as well do something useful with our time.

Cow Soldier 2

This is Rasika. He’s found meaning in his life serving the cows and bulls of India

So, let’s say that we can find a meaning to our own life, as opposed to that big unanswerable question of life generally. How would we go about it? Well, our quote tells us quite clearly how not to realise (as in discover and fulfil) the meaning of our own life. And that way is to simply be untrue to our own ‘law of being’. Which, of course means that the opposite is equally true: we can realise the meaning of our own lives by being true to our own law of being, to our own authentic selves, to our own Truth, and our own knowing of what is right and wrong—for ourselves.

Where Home is a Dirty Sidewalk

Everyday we see the consequences in the lives of people unable to live the conditioned life imposed on us from birth

From the day we are born, to the indoctrination of the schools we attend, to the compliance needed to fit in with friends, work and all the rest, we are conditioned to not be true to ourselves: to not live our lives by our own rules. In fact, it’s really quite difficult to even know what our own law of being might be, much less to actually be able to follow that way.

It is not until we strike out on a path all our own that we have a chance to discover what those laws of our own might be. Mind you, even as we set out to find our own path, to follow our own truth, there are enormous pressures to confirm, consume and simply go with the way everyone else is going.

But, at least we are on a path that we can make our own. In time. And with effort. It takes time to find out who we are, and it takes effort to see ourselves as beings that can make our own laws of living, or being. It’s not an easy path, I know. It’s hard to make our own laws when the world is so busy trying to get us to live by its rules.


Free Hugs rule!!! Live your own law, live your own meaning. 


But, there are rewards:  you will discover the meaning of your life, the way you are supposed to live that gives your life meaning and offers you satisfaction.  One other reward (and one which can increase the meaning of your life and help others find their own law of being) can be neatly summed up in another quote:

To thine ownself be true. If you are, then it must follow as the night follows the day, thou cannot then be false to anyone. 

Walkers in the Wasteland

Take your own path, even if it means taking the road less travelled

Sloth: Are you a human doing? Or a human being?

Sloth.  It’s a good word isn’t it?  One of those words you don’t have to look up to know what it means.  But if you do look it up, you’ll find it has a couple of meanings.  One is: ‘laziness, indolence and a reluctance to make an effort’

Is sloth a bad thing?  Well I guess if it’s the philosophy by which you live your entire life, then it might be.  But even then, who’s to say what you are doing or what you’re achieving as you live your slothful life?  It could be that you simply reincarnated into this life to take a break, have a rest.  Or you might be working on some brilliant idea that will change the world.

Of course, most of us aren’t inclined this way at all, and even if we are, it’s quite likely that life (in the guise of family, friends, pressure to ‘make a living’ and so on) would soon force us out of our slothfulness.  ‘Go out and play’, ‘Read a book’, ‘Go to school’, ‘What college do you go to?’, ‘What do you do for a living?’  Demands and questions like these are constant in all our lives, and they force us into defining ourselves by what we do – whether we are a little kid at school, a teenager trying to sort life out, an adult trying to make our way, a parent, whatever!


Mother and Son

One Human Doing, One Human Being

It always seems to be a about defining ourselves by what we do, rather than who we are, or what we stand for.  Always we have to be doing something.  Ever heard that little identity joke, ‘I’m a human being, not a human doing’?  I wonder how many of us would feel ‘lost’ if we shifted from that need to be a doer to another definition of our identity, one less reliant on what we do or on what we’ve done in the past.

What’s all this got to do with sloth?  Well, for a start a slothful person is one who doesn’t do much – if anything.  When asked what they do, such a person will answer: ‘Nothing’.

Two Lazy Ganga Dogs

Doggies have got slothfullness down to a fine art

Well, I hear you saying, this is all fine and dandy, but I’ve got work to go to, meals to cook for the kids, an appointment I’m running late for, the lawn needs mowing and after that I have to write a report for my night class. All very true, valid, and all of them things that do need to be done. We all have a life don’t we? But perhaps sometimes, even just now and again, and perhaps just for a few minutes at a time, you can stop. Just stop. That’s all. Nothing else. Stop and just do nothing, or rather stop and simply be.

On, remember I said there are a couple of definitions of sloth?  Well the other one tells us that ‘a sloth is a slow moving nocturnal mammal noted for hanging upside down from tree branches.  It lives entirely in the trees and is capable of only very slow movement on the ground’.

So, I guess you should be very careful when you tell someone else ‘I’m a sloth’.

 Have a lazy (slothful) day


Resting against a Tree

Shade is good when being a sloth


You’d think Open Heart Surgery would turn one into a sloth wouldn’t you? I mean it’s supposed to: rest, relax, take it slowly, and all that. But I can tell you, it’s not easy, not doing something (anything!) all the time for weeks on end. But, I’m trying!


Valentine’s Day: A Reappraisal

Way back in I think March, or perhaps February, I picked up a brochure in a church we had a quick look into as we walked by. I’ve been carrying it around in my journal ever since, meaning to read it. So today, I did. It’s a brochure about romance, marriage, and Valentine’s Day from a Roman Catholic point of view. I used to be Catholic, but now I don’t even think of myself as Christian. But you know what they say: Once a Catholic, always a Catholic. I’ve never been sure if it’s a curse or just a statement of fact, or a myth. When you think about it, it probably depends on how that sentence is actually uttered: mockingly, reassuringly, matter of factly. You know what I mean.

Anyway, the brochure. I found it fascinating. Even I can say, healing. It’s about love, so of course the healing potential is there. I was moved by my reading of it, with its description of St Valentine himself, with its advice to people in a marriage, or in long-term relationships.

I am not a big fan of Valentine’s Day, or should I say, I wasn’t? Today may have changed my heart and mind on this. Time will tell. First let me tell you about St Valentine.

valentine from net

Perhaps more of a ‘realistic’ depiction of Valentine?

He was a bishop of the early Christian church in Rome. He was arrested and imprisoned for performing marriages for Roman soldiers who were Christian. In other words, he stood up for love. He said, by his actions, no government can dictate who loves who, who can marry whom. Love is love, is what he said. My kind of guy.

Anyway, while he was in prison he became friendly with his jailer, and healed his daughter. I have no idea what she was cured of, but guess how he signed a letter he wrote to her just before they chopped off his head (on 14 February 269AD)?

From your Valentine

Sound familiar? Such stories I love. Anyway, that day (his feast day: he was made a saint automatically as he’d died a martyr for his church) became a popular day of celebration for engaged couples in the 18th Century, which lead to the production of greeting cards that became known as Valentine’s Day cards (a bit of a chicken or the egg story this one: did some wily entrepreneur come up with the idea to sell cards, or did public demand force the issue? Interesting, yes?). St Valentine is the patron saint of engaged couples, happy marriages and, for reasons I am not able to clarify, epileptics, travellers and bee keepers.

While old Valentine is pretty interesting, I want to get to the brochure. As I said, it is about relationships, more specifically keeping the romance and mystery alive in a marriage. It begins talking about the excitement and mystery that accompanies a new romantic relationship: Is she/he the one? Are they really interested in me? The brochure says the suspense is both thrilling and invigorating. Doesn’t mention terrifying, but maybe that’s another story. Anyway, allow me to quote one paragraph in full, which for me really does encapsulate what I am getting at here.

This initial thrill is the stuff of movies and music and is an intoxicating experience. Yet it is also very limited. It captures nothing of the magnificence of a couple’s devotion which has stayed strong over the decades and matured into a love that can be truly relied upon.

Of course, not all our beloved readers will have had a ‘decades’ long’ love, but don’t worry, you will. This devotion, this deep love is a thing we could almost call divine; it’s a spiritual thing that comes from the inner most part of us. A phrase that occurs to me is it’s as if it’s not of this world: it is a thing beyond words, beyond everyday experience.

This type of love depends on more than the romantic feelings that come from ‘falling in love’ Of course it begins there, with the falling (maybe that should be changed to rising?) but it requires action; a deliberate, wilful, and intentional loving. That sounds very much like the meme: love is a verb we’ve all most likely seen.

Here There Be Love

The brochure then addresses itself to the notion of keeping and nurturing this love over the long term.  It chooses to place an emphasis on mystery: the mystery we are all to each other; the mystery of the first meeting, falling in love, learning about each other. But not everything about each other. In essence, it says that unless there is at least a little mystery, then we will fail to connect to that divine love I referred to earlier. We will lose interest, or things will go stale. I know that you know exactly what I am talking about; it happens to us all in any relationship.

Right at the back of this little brochure there is a section headed Rekindling the Romance. No, it’s not about buying a new bed, or going on a romantic getaway or anything like that. This is why I liked what I read so much; just down to earth, loving advice for all of us.

A Happy Moment1 Hear the Mystery

Share with each other a cherished hope you have for your future. Listen carefully to each other. Don’t hurry this: take time to really let the other’s hope be fully revealed (Note from me: Don’t assume you both have the same hopes).

2 See the Mystery

Make time to watch each other at work or play. Look into each other’s eyes with love and acceptance. Let Your Eyes Do the TalkingTry holding your gaze for five minutes using only your eyes to communicate your openness (Note from me: If you’ve ever tried this you will know it’s not easy. Mind you it can make you laugh. That’s got to be a good thing!)




3 Speak the Mystery

Express your wonder and gratitude for all that the other is in your life (Another note from me: This says is in your life, not what the other has done for you). Express it to each other; express it to your family, and to your friends. Become your lover’s cheer squad and advocate.

Nice, isn’t it? Why am I sharing all this on our Journey of Healing blog? Well, I think I sort of alluded to it when I said earlier that love is healing (or something like that). For me simply reading that brochure today (finally, after carrying it around for so long) was a healing all by itself. Now, let me just suggest to Pauline that we stare into each other’s eyes for five minutes. Wish me luck!

Reason for Journey? It’s Complicated

The reasons for my journeys are never straightforward

Thinking about one of my (very very long ago) long-distance hitchhiking binges (this one around Australia), I wondered, why had I done it?  What were the reasons for that particular journey?

Monk on the CoraWell, my first thought was: ‘This is what I do, what I am.  I am a traveller. There doesn’t have to be a reason’. Of course, this is true—but only up to a point.  So, thinking more, I came up with a list of ‘reasons’: I liked hitching, I wanted to explore the country, I wanted to escape a big city and a nightmare job, it felt good to be on the move.  The list was growing fast. (DISCLAIMER: I in no way endorse hitchhiking as a way to get around in this period in our sad history)

And then it struck me:  the biggest thing that happened to me on that particular trip wasn’t on my list.  I met a girl.  More than that, the girl was my ‘soulmate’, my life partner. And wait; there’s more: she became Anam Cara, the ‘companion of my deepest intimacy’ A fairly big deal I am sure you will agree.

Of course, this momentous event wasn’t on my list because. Well, I mean, how many people say to themselves, ‘I’m going to hitchhike around Australia to find my soulmate’?  Not a lot!  (On the other hand, it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea does it?  But let’s leave that one for another day)

And that’s the point, isn’t it?  My reasons for that trip weren’t quite as straightforward as I had imagined: if I hadn’t started that journey (for whatever reasons I thought were real at the time), I would never have met that girl.  And, looking back, I can see that meeting her was the real reason that I set out on that journey.

It is fair to say however that these ‘hidden’ reasons aren’t always quite so dramatic.  And often we don’t ever find out if there is a hidden or less than straightforward reason for our journey – or for anything else we do for that matter.

What all this means of course, is that any reason you come up for taking a journey, or even if you don’t actually have a reason that you know of, then it is reason enough.

So, somewhere along the road of your journey, of your life, you may – or may not – discover the real reason for the journey you are on.  Either way, trust that you are on the right road!

PS Just occurred to me that I haven’t mentioned the word healing, or ill, or any notion of that sort. But, I would have to say that the healing journey was alive and in full motion then; as it is now. Always will be yes?

Paul Self Portrait with Prayer Flags



Awen: Bring on the creative spirit!

It’s a blessing, isn’t it? Being an artist, I mean. Well, alright, sometimes it’s a curse. Kind of. What I mean to say is that if the muse is onboard, and if the creative energy is flowing, then man, it’s a blessing, a gift. But, when the muse has abandoned you (or you have abandoned the muse: think about that for a second), and the energy levels have you feeling flat as a pancake and devoid of any creative ideas, then, well then it can be a curse.

Fortunately for those of us who swing between feeling blessed and feeling cursed there is a blessing, an invocation really, that can help us get back into the zone. Oh yes, that’s right, another mantra I have learned, but, please, no need to fear.

Told to me ages ago by a friend who is a bard and into all things bardic and Druidic, this invocation consists of three words only

Awen, awen, awen.

Okay it’s one word repeated three times. In any case here’s what Wikipedia says about the word Awen:


My interpretation of the Awen. As mentioned in the text, three is a sacred number for Druids. Three drops of inspiration, three rays.

Awen is a Welsh, Cornish and Breton word for “(poetic) inspiration”. In the Welsh tradition, awen is the inspiration of the poet bards; or, in its personification, Awen is the inspirational muse of creative artists in general: the inspired individual (often a poet or a soothsayer) is described as an awenydd.


In other words, awen is the flowing spirit of creativity, or we could say of life. The word first appears in 9th Century Welsh literature, but it originates from an Indo-European root word ‘-uel’ which means ‘to blow’, and this fits nicely with the Welsh word awel meaning breeze. So, it is easy to grasp the concept of a flowing spirit or, as I like to put it, a grounding invocation that somehow helps get my head and heart in a good creative space.

I resonated right away with Awen. I guess it became a part of my rituals around working on anything creative. Many of us of course have rituals we absolutely must perform before we create. Mine also includes a period of procrastination very often!

Pretty much as soon as I heard the word, I began using it in my journal. Oddly not at the opening of an entry, but sometimes part way through an entry and, eventually almost always at the closing of an entry.

Lately I’ve been thinking of awen as the three-word spoken and not just written mantra (three, or the triad has an important symbolic place in Druidic culture) in the same way as I might chant Ohm; In fact, the two are very similar in intent.

So, whether using this invocation makes me into an awenydd or not is an open question. I suppose like anything of a ritual nature, using it has a healing impact; it is the doing of the thing that is the point. It works its own magic when it wants to. And when it doesn’t? Well, it doesn’t!


A Story I have to tell, even if I intended not to

I want to tell a story that I wasn’t going to tell, not ever. But the push is there to tell it so here goes. I’ve been thinking on and off for a long time about the concept of the ‘last conscious thought’ before death. Why? What got me thinking about this? Well, I read the story of the great Mahatma and hero of mine, Gandhi. When he was shot by an assassin, his last words were, ‘oh Rama’. In other words, ‘oh God’.

Sometime later I learned that for some Hindus, the last thing on one’s mind will directly influence the next birth, the next incarnation. I heard even later a funny story: A rich businessman in India was so worried about his riches and what would happen to them after he died that as he was dying his last thoughts were of those riches and what would become of them. So, he was reborn sure enough; as a guard dog at the gate of his rich estate. Perhaps not so funny for him.

Then there were the attacks on the World Trade towers in New York in 2001. At the time I was working for the government in Australia and in a high-rise office block. Naturally at first we weren’t sure if a war was starting, who would be targeted, or what would happen. I listened as the final mobile phone calls were made from people doomed to die in the towers and on the planes. Easy to see where those people’s final thoughts were going.

So, I told my partner that when I die my final thoughts will be of you; not because of a reincarnation hope or wish, more as an act of love transcending the restrictions of material existence.

Then, the evening before the big event (open heart surgery as many of you know), we were talking about all the possible outcomes, including death. As we talked it occurred to me that it is not my partner that I should be thinking of if I were fortunate enough to have a last thought; it should be what could be loosely called the Universal Consciousness or, if you like, God. A manifestation of this consciousness that I particularly like is the Hindu god Krishna. So, I resolved, with my partner’s permission, that Krishna would be the last thing on my (conscious) mind.

Anyway, sometime during or after the operation I had what I can only describe as a dream, but its real status, remains a mystery. In this alleged dream some people were discussing who would be reincarnated as whom; some were on phones talking to people who I assumed were the people about to be reborn. I was just standing there in this room waiting; presumably I had died and was awaiting my next assignment. These people were jolly and talking about how this or that person would enjoy (or not) being born into this or that situation or family.

So, after some time of listening to all this, and hoping I would be getting a good rebirth, two people, one with a clipboard, came up to me. One began to speak to me but was interrupted by the clipboard carrier who, after consulting his list, whispered to his colleague that ‘He was thinking of Krishna when he died’. At this the other person said something to me to the effect of ‘oh, okay. Wait here please’. They both then walked away, leaving me thinking that I must be some kind of special case.

And that’s it. I woke up I guess; or at least the dream or whatever it was ended. Did I die and come back to life because of that last thought (actually while I intended Krishna to be my last thought, I don’t remember having any thought; I think I was still asleep from the night when they put me to sleep for the surgery. Of course as with everything, intention is the key)? Or was it just a part of what they call delirium as a result of the trauma of the whole thing?

I will never know. All I know is that as far as I can tell I am alive, though in a world that is apparently an illusion, who can say one way or another what it is to be alive or not?

But, yes for the purpose of the illusion or whatever it is, I am alive. I intend to stay alive for a bit longer; no. A lot longer thank you. Do I have a special work to do? No more or no less than you do or any of us do.

That’s all. A story I planned to never tell. But I really just had to.

Paul Self Portrait with Prayer Flags

Next Door Neighbour Noise Pollution

Since coming out of hospital I’ve been slowly recovering. One of the habits I’ve gotten into is sitting outside our little house in the mornings. I greet the sun and allow it to warm my body; to soak into the aches and pains. It really does help, and is on top of that, a pleasant thing to do.

But, alas, it is not the perfect, blissful little experience that it might sound. While we live in very quiet, peaceful town, there is sometimes a little noise pollution to deal with. In this case it is the next-door neighbour’s radio which he has on full volume as he feeds his multitude of caged birds. Unfortunately, most days this ritual coincides with my sun worshipping.

Don’t get me wrong: I love radio; I love music. The problem is that our neighbour has his radio tuned to a syndicated ‘shock jock’. So, blasted out across our neighbourhood is all kinds of racism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, and other vile and hateful isms and what pass for the ‘opinions’ of both the jock and his callers.

Nothing is safe from the venom spewed by this career talk show host (who is now a millionaire many times over from a long career on radio plus lucrative ‘sponsorship’ deals; I conclude from this that he is in it for the love—or is the hate?—of the work) as he tears into anything and anyone who he thinks will prompt angry and equally hate fuelled people to call in and spew some more hate.

Poison; as poisonous as any other kind of pollution. So, what do I do? I do try to counter the tirades by chanting, with prayer and with good conversation with Pauline. But, you know it is really difficult to ‘block it out’; it’s hard to let it slide by. The obvious solution would be to remove myself from the scene, but even inside with doors closed, it’s still more than audible. Besides, I need the sun; I need the healing energy it offers, so I don’t want to remove myself. It is a thing to be endured, while continuing the efforts to replace the pollution with something nicer, and as antidote to the poison.

And that’s all any of us can do: try to replace the toxins that drain life with activities or with behaviours that are life affirming, life giving. Even if, as in this case, those efforts don’t seem to do any good, and the poison appears to be intractible, I try to think that over time, with continued effort, and with the attitude of understanding and compassion (this is not easy in such a case as this; but that’s another story for another day) towards the situation, then there will be a change; something will occur for the good.

It’s called faith.